When you look at the latest plethora of Super Bowl ads, what do you see? A bit of fun? Or do they inspire you think about ways in which you can apply the same thinking to your own promotional activities? Hopefully it’s the latter, because there’s much to learn from the patterns being formed.

If you’ve clicked on this post looking to enjoy the latest videos, then I suggest you visit ‘Super Bowl XLVI – The Greatest Automotive Ad Game on Earth’, where you can view each of the automotive ads vying for the top-spot at the Big Game this year.

Meanwhile, let’s take a quick look at how the automotive sector ads are doing, now that the dust has settled.

Can Volkswagen be beaten?

Last year Volkswagen destroyed the opposition at Super Bowl XLV and most importantly during the remainder of the advertising year. Their campaign, “The Force”, clocked up nearly 53 million views in less than 12 months and a record 4.8 million social shares.

They did this, not by producing the best advert (although it was fun to watch), but because they figured out how to game the attention of online audiences, drumming up initial buzz before the campaign started (something big is coming) and then feeding people’s innate appetite to share and be acknowledged (as a trusted finder) in their social groups.

The ad went viral in its first week and sustained the interest of audiences, primarily because the meme entered the vocabulary of parody writers, was picked up and used by other media campaigns (launch of the Hollywood-produced ‘Thor’ Film) and became the poster-child for combustion-engine haters Greenpeace in their anti-VW campaign, ‘The Dark Side’.

So did Volkswagen take on board the valuable lessons from 2011? And what about the other automotive brands?

Here’s a quick look at the points table to remind us where each of the campaigns have currently reached (all data was obtained from Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart and valid as of 31/1/2012):

Campaign Brand Total Views Social Shares % Shares/View
The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day (Teaser) Volkswagen 10,322,557 627,943 6.10
“Coming Soon” and “Matthew’s Day Off” Honda CR-V Honda 8,347,169 246,433 2.95
Audi “Daylight” Vampire Party Audi 2,027,911 33,430 1.65
“Transactions” Acura NSX Ad feat. Jerry Seinfeld & Jay Leno Acura (luxury brand of Honda) 690,287 9,036 1.31
Suzuki “Sled” 2012 Super Bowl Ad Suzuki Auto 107,781 2,914 2.70
It’s Reinvented! — Toyota Camry Toyota 131,256 1,540 1.17
Chevrolet “Route 66” Super Bowl XLVI Commercial – “Happy Grad” Chevrolet 53,355 1,003 1.88
“Cheetah” — Official big game ad for Hyundai Veloster Turbo Hyundai 55,055 532 0.97

In 2012, Honda learns that if you can’t beat them… why not join them?

So far in 2012, Honda are the only automotive brand within spitting distance of Volkswagen, but even so, just look at their measly 2.95% shares per view figure compared to Volkswagen’s 6.10%. To put these into perspective, in our 2011 round-up we reported Ken Block/DC Shoes Gymkhana 4 achieved 16.3%, whilst Volkswagen’s ‘The Force’ reached 10.2%.

So as a benchmark we are looking for at least 1 in every 10 views (many of which will be repeat viewings) to result in the video being shared.

Whilst the share performance of Honda’s 2 videos looks modest compared to Volkswagen, the number of views is far closer. This tells us that the pre-launch mentions of Matthew Broderick’s involvement in the campaign, plus all the media speculation about a remake of the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, will have generated a considerable boost in search traffic, but so far viewers haven’t been quite delighted enough to share it as readily as they have VW’s Bark Side teaser.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment so far though, is for GM/Chevrolet.

When we tally up our estimates for the media spend by automotive brands in this year’s Super Bowl, we’re looking at $66.5 million for the TV spots alone (19 spots at a minimum of $3.5 million each), add on top of this the filming & production, fees for actors, brand licensing (Twilight, Star Wars, Rocky..), agency fees and online advertising costs and there can’t be much change left from $100 million, with perhaps $30 million of that total being carried by GM.

So they’ll not be best pleased to see their main feature spot trailing the field in 7th place, although they still have 4 more ads to try and recover the lost ground.

But perhaps the most intimidating observation to make is that Volkswagen have yet to launch their full commercial (which will feature the New Beetle), but it’s early days and the Big Game is still just under 5 days away..


There’s no doubt in my mind, that the success of advertising in today’s digital world depends on managing the shift from paid promotion through to the more sustainable journey in earned media. Whereas earned media used to cover just professional publishers and news providers, it now includes every single consumer who writes comments, blogs or just updates their Facebook page and is therefore publishing their opinions about a brand.

This is the heartland for innovative ad campaigns who seek to maximise the reach, sustainability and re-usability of their creative message and the most difficult change to embrace for ad agencies more used to influencing rather than engaging the audience.

We’ll draw out more insights from the 2012 Super Bowl Ad war once the game is over, but for now one can only imagine Volkswagen are rather pleased with the creative work of their agency Deutsch, LA.